Door-buster savings! Black Friday! Small-business Saturday! Cyber Monday! Even the Non-Profit Industrial Complex has gotten in on the game with Giving Tuesday. Tis truly the season to engage in consumer capitalism.
When I first became involved in anarchy, one of the ways that some parts of the scene where I lived pushed back against the Big Evil of shopping was the Adbusters-inspired Buy Nothing Day. Often times that meant activisty disruptions of malls, specific Very Bad Companies, or the central shopping district, in an attempt to shake people free from the capitalist spell.
These were often fun shenanigans, but I quickly came to be critical of the idea that disrupting shopping one day a year was somehow any sort of attack on capitalism. People still bought stuff. Hell, I bought what I thought I would not be ‘able’ to buy on BND the day before the day before, and then would spend money again the following day. Embarrassing, yes, and given the changing nature of consumer capitalism from one based on physical storefronts to online shopping that can be done from anywhere, at any time, on our smart phones, the idea of disrupting a day of shopping is absurd. Black Friday sales now last from the day after Halloween through the Sunday after Thanksgiving for some stores.
Yet there are plenty of examples of how this plays out on a more ongoing basis in individual anarchists’ lives; not shopping at certain stores or doing business with certain companies, targeted boycotts, veganism and other ethical consumerism. Most anarchists I know recognize this to be futile on some level, but many still go through the motions.
I still do some of these things myself. I don’t shop at Walmart or through Amazon (except when I do). I make choices about the food I eat that I know have no impact on the systems I object to. I still don’t buy gas from Shell stemming from their complicity in the murder of Nigerian activist Ken Saro Wiwa, except when that is the only gas station around.
Vestiges of my days as a liberal or leftist? Partly, I am sure.
Because it fits my ethical framework in the here and now (except when it doesn’t)? Arguably.
I can make whatever excuses I want, the spook of morality is still somewhere up in my head, and I know it.
How do you engage with consumerism? What rules (if any) do you put on yourself in regards to your buying habits that relate to your anarchist practice? Are there certain lines you won’t cross? What would it take to make you cross them?